Getting By
Chapter 32

Copyright© 2010 by Shakes Peer2B

For better or worse, we have a Constitution. Most of the provisions I thought important have been included, and I believe we can live with the rest. Only time will tell for sure. Some of the important provisions that I and others fought for are:

Rather than political parties, we have four sociopolitical interest groups, which elect their own representatives to the House of Representatives. These groups are: Social Dependents, Wage Earners, Corporate Executives/Individually Wealthy, and one that I didn't think of in my original planning: Small Business Owners.

Social Dependents are those who, for whatever reason, be it physical or mental disability, bad luck, or simply fiscal ineptitude, cannot support themselves or their families. Before the Sickness, this group got very short shrift by government at all levels. By giving them the right to elect representatives from within their ranks, we at least ensure that their needs will get a hearing.

Wage Earners are those who support themselves and their families through the fruits of their labors. I expect that this will be the most populous of these groups.

Corporate Executives, while technically Wage Earners, are those whose political views tend to be shaped by their positions rather than by their salaries. They are the top two or three levels of Corporate Management. There is a more precise and flexible definition in the Constitution, but this will suffice for my journals.

Individually Wealthy, of whom, much to my surprise, I am one, are those whose personal wealth is great enough that they need not work for a living. Since this group tends to be heavy corporate investors whose views tend to shape those of Corporate Executives, the two groups are combined into one minority group.

Small Business Owners, while they may share some characteristics with Corporate Executives and Individually Wealthy, tend to have a whole separate political agenda that is often at odds with those of all of the other groups, hence the definition of them as a separate political entity.

An individual's membership in one of these four groups is determined by his or her wealth and employment status. Government employees who are not elected are Wage Earners, while elected office holders retain membership in the group that elected them. Unlike the US House of Representatives a district doesn't elect just one representative. Each group within a district elects its own representatives which vary in number depending on relative populations within that district.

Our Congress is bi-cameral (two houses), but in the Senate, each district elects one representative from each of the four Sociopolitical groups. This should help to balance some of the inequities introduced in the House by the population based representation.

Our President and Vice President can, in theory, be elected from any of the groups. In practice, I expect that most often they will be Wage Earners, simply because the vast majority of voters should fall in this group.

We have no electoral college. The popular vote elects the President. The runner-up in the primary from the same group is Vice President. Members of each group vote for the candidates from within that group during the primary elections to select their group's candidates for the final election. During the final election, however, they are free to vote for whomever they please, regardless of group membership.

Justices on our Supreme Court are appointed by the House, with ten year terms, although they can be re-appointed any number of times. Candidates for Supreme Court Justice must be approved by both the Senate and the President. Instead of making Law Enforcement a department of the Executive Branch, we have placed it under the Judicial Branch.

The Constitution explicitly prohibits any branch of Government from having 'privileged' information that is not available to other branches. The structuring of this provision to ensure our national security is still being worked out, even as we head into our first elections.

A bill of rights, similar to those added as amendments to the US Constitution, is an integral part of ours, and has been updated to allow for technologies about which our ancestors could not even dream, such as electronics and the Internet, which, by the way, is well on its way to being resurrected. The freedom of the media provision has been amended to enforce truthful and unbiased reporting. There is no restriction on what can be reported, but it cannot, by omission, implication, innuendo, or rumor, be colored to fit a religious, political, or other agenda.

There is no such thing as a Stock Market. Corporations are allowed, but under much different rules than before the Sickness. Individuals, organizations, and other corporations may invest in corporations if they so choose, but those transactions may be made only between the corporation issuing stock and the individual or other corporation purchasing that stock. The insanity of an open stock market wherein hordes of people gamble enormous sums on companies about which they know little or nothing, overvaluing some and undervaluing others, while brokers get rich off their ignorance should never occur again.

The Central Bank is a government entity and cannot be privatized.

Thanks to the input of the People, and lessons learned from our own past, conservation and the health of our planetary ecology are also built into our constitution and legal systems in numerous places, and there are automatic provisions for changing the incentives for having children as the population levels vary.

Education and its funding, from elementary through college, are also built into this constitution. In recognition of the fact that a true democracy depends upon a well educated and informed electorate, funds for education are the top priority item in every budget - higher, even, than defense. Furthermore, civics classes are required from elementary through college.

In addition, all campaigns are financed by the government and the Department of Elections is the only entity allowed to publish information about candidates. That information is limited to: Stated positions of the candidate, records of public actions while in public office, and the candidate's sociopolitical group membership. Specifically prohibited are: any mention of a candidate's religion, sexual preference, or personal activities. The Department of Elections certifies the legal eligibility of candidates. To be eligible, a candidate must be a citizen of Phoenicia who has completed training to Level Four or greater (which includes a college level education), who has never been convicted of a crime requiring public flogging or banishment. These provisions alone should go a long way toward seeing that qualified candidates have a fair chance of being elected without the waters being muddied by personal attacks.

Oh yes! As it has been since our days in the Citadel, health care for all Phoenicians is paid for by the Government. We should never again see the shameful situation that arose before the Sickness in which so many Americans could not afford health care.

There are, of course, still legal issues to be finalized surrounding the constitution. For example: How does marriage across sociopolitical boundaries affect the group membership of the parties involved?

When it came time to select candidates for President, there was a great deal of pressure from the people for me to run, but I am too old for such a young nation, and I declined, so they drafted Gav, instead.

I remember when he came to me with the news.

"They want me to run for President, Dad!" He sounded the way he had the day he showed off his new baseball glove to Amanda.

I embraced him, and said, "You'll make a good President, but you should be aware of some of the things you're going to face during your campaign. The new laws will help, but things will come up during debates and public addresses, so you'll have to be ready for them."

"I don't understand," He said, wearing a puzzled expression. "What kind of things?"

"Well, first is the fact that you're my son. I've no doubt that that's a big part of why they drafted you to begin with, but your opponents will use it against you."

"I can't help whose son I am!"

"I know that and so do they. Your friends think that being my son gives you some special inheritance that you can take into office with you, but your opponents will argue exactly the opposite. What you have to be prepared with is your public record. Of all the candidates I've seen, you have been the most involved in the formation of the Constitution and the new Government. Those are your accomplishments, son, not mine, and those are what you need to emphasize."

"But I'm proud to be your son!"

"And I'm proud that you are my son, but our pride is not what this new country needs to be founded on. In the history of the United States, there were a couple of times when sons followed their fathers into the Presidency, and at least one of those times proved to be disastrous for the country. Because of that, you need to prove to the voters that you, Gavin Chen-Thompson, are the best candidate, not because of who your father is, but because of who you are. You've got a lot of friends who are content to promote your candidacy on the basis of your being my son. Your hardest job will be convincing them that you deserve the office on your own merits. Never mind what your opponents say. If you can't convince your supporters, it will come back to bite you, because once you're in office, they'll start to believe that you're not really qualified, and you won't have the influence you need to get things done. Now is the time to convince them, son."

Gav nodded thoughtfully, "I think I see what you mean. It would help a lot if you would endorse my candidacy, you know."

I shook my head. "No, son. In the long run, it would come back to haunt you. I'm not going to endorse any candidate, and I'm going to give only one speech to explain why. I don't want them thinking I disapprove of your candidacy, either."

I did give that speech, and it was broadcast all over Phoenicia by Internet. I made it short and to the point.

"I've been asked by a number of the candidates for President to endorse their candidacies. After much deliberation, I have decided not to endorse any candidate. My reasons for this decision are more on the positive side than the negative. There are a lot of good candidates out there, including my son, and I don't want to give any of them an unfair advantage. This election, of all of those to come, is arguably the most important in Phoenicia's future history, and for that reason, I think that it is doubly important that you consider each candidate on his or her relative merits, regardless of other factors, including family affiliations. I think my son would make a fine President, but I think the same of the other candidates, as well. I won't endorse any of them because my time for making decisions on behalf of Phoenicia is over. Now it's your turn."

When I left, it looked as though Gav would win the election handily. He will make a good President, and while I'm not a big fan of dynasties, I don't know of another Phoenician who would serve as well. I briefly considered asking one of the Chiefs to run, but they, too, are getting old.

One of the deciding factors for taking this trip was to give Gav the opportunity to start his government his way, without me looking over his shoulder.

Yes, after the Constitution was ratified, I decided, or rather Sophie insisted, that I needed a vacation. After twenty-three years of making decisions for what amounts to the entire human race, I suppose it was due. Ruth and Sophie conspired to have Ruth look after my daughter and send me off on my little walkabout - or perhaps I should say 'rideabout.'

Sophie, at thirteen, is far more mature than thirteen-year-olds from the world in which I grew up, but then, so was Gav at that age. Amanda would be proud of them both.

Anyway, I suppose Sophie noticed how tired I was looking in the latter days of the rush to get the Constitution in place, and insisted I take some time off.

"Go hunting, Dad," she told me. "Go find a mountain lake and fish, or just sit and enjoy the scenery. For once in your life, take a little time for you. You have done all you can for Phoenicia. Now it's up to us."

"She's right, Dad," Gav agreed. "General Lee can hold the fort until the elections are over. You have done more than could be expected of one man. Now you deserve some time to rest, but if you stay here, you won't get it. You're too well known in Phoenix. Why don't you take that Appaloosa you're so fond of, and go for a ride? Take a pack horse, or, if that's too much trouble, just take one of the Hummers."

Actually, I had a couple of vehicles to choose from, and a number of horses. One of the first things that was done after the Constitution was ratified and they began setting up the new government, was to allocate the property that had been owned by my government to the citizenry. In practice, there was not that much to distribute. The Central Bank remained a government entity, but Central Stores was privatized. Anything that people already had in their possession became their property. The government retained the military vehicles and weapons that were too large or destructive for personal use. Livestock was allocated to those who had been caring for it on behalf of the community, so Matt and Heather became the proud owners of a large herd of horses.

I stayed out of the allocation of goods discussion, so it came as a little bit of a surprise for me to discover that I was, by Phoenician standards, quite wealthy. Besides a small herd of horses, I was given a Hummvee and one of the new Solar/ethanol hybrids, as well as the house and land that had been allocated for our use when we first came to Phoenix. In addition, the Allocation Committee awarded me a fairly large sum of money for services rendered to the state of Phoenicia. Included in that sum was what they thought was owed to Amanda.

Thinking of these things reminded me that some parts of our world were still dangerous, so before taking my vacation, I went down to the bank and made out a will. I left the house and land to Gav and his lovely wife, because they would need it for the twins, and Susan was again pregnant.

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